Up until last Thursday, Harvard Law School’s most recent claim to fame was that it graduated Barack Obama.
Now that hallowed institution can boast that Homer Simpson is also an alumnus — or someone who thinks along the lines of the cartoon character at any rate.
The occasion for what is probably the dumbest question ever asked within the confines of the law school was a visit by Tzipi Livni, generally regarded as the most powerful woman in Israel and one of the most important figures in the push for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Having served as the Jewish State’s foreign minister, Livni is currently a member of the center-left Zionist Union in the Israeli Knesset.
Livni was on campus for a panel discussion about the Palestinian peace process. But when the time came for questions from the audience, the discussion was quickly derailed. A student in the back of the room had this to offer: “OK, my question is for Tzipi Livni, um, how is it that you are so smelly?” according to a transcript of the event. When the panel replied with confused looks, the student clarified exactly what he meant: “Oh, it’s regarding your odor.”
“I’m not sure I understand the question,” the event moderator replied.
“I’m question [sic] about the odor of Tzipi Livni, very smelly, and I was just wondering,” the student said.
Insults deriding Jewish people as smelly or otherwise possessing a unique odor are quite old, and the notion was included in anti-Semitic propaganda used by the Nazis.
In an apology published in the Harvard Law Record, the student responsible tried to make amends by saying his goal was merely to insult Livni personally, and that his invocation of an anti-Semitic stereotype was unintentional.
I want to be very clear that it was never my intention to invoke a hateful stereotype, but I recognize now that, regardless of my intention, words have power, and it troubles me deeply to know that I have caused some members of the Jewish community such pain with my words. To those people I say, please reach out. Give me an opportunity to make it right.
Despite apologizing for invoking the stereotype, at no point does the student ever apologize for asking a pointless, rude question of Livni during the question and answer portion of the event.
While the Harvard student encouraged others to “reach out,” that will likely be hard for most people to do, because the identity of the student responsible is being actively suppressed.
Harvard Law Dean Martha Minow dubbed the remark “an embarrassment to this institution” in a campus email obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation, but the school hasn’t done anything that would reveal the name of the student. Video of the event exists, but it has been censored to remove the offending question.
Other write-ups of the event, such as one at the Harvard Law Review, have similarly concealed the name. It is currently unclear whether the student will face any repercussions for his stunt.
This report, by Blake Neff, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.